Telangana COVID-19 compensation runs into trouble with the number of claims more than the official death figures

Published : December 02, 2021 09:36 IST

Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao. Photo: PTI

Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in March 2020, Telangana has consistently reported the least number of COVID-19 cases and COVID-19-related deaths in Southern India, one of the lowest among all Indian States. The government of Telangana’s COVID-19 portal lists 675,798 individuals as having been infected with the coronavirus and 3,990 deaths due to COVID-19 or other co-morbid conditions as of November 30.

But, according to officials from the Telangana Department of Health, Medical and Family Welfare, over 5,000 people (much more than the official death figures) have already applied for the Rs.50,000 ex-gratia compensation for families of members who had died due to COVID-19. And with the number of people visiting the State’s “Meeseva” centres swelling by the day ever since the Telangana government released guidelines for the payment of the ex gratia, officials are flummoxed.

Can they consider the compensation claims from families whose kin perished during the pandemic, but the cause of death is not mentioned as COVID in the official records? Doing so might drastically increase the number of actual deaths in the State, not something the government would like to see.

The opposition in Telangana has always alleged that the K. Chandrashekar Rao-led government was underreporting the number of COVID-19 deaths and cases in the State. Dr Dasoju Sravan, a senior Congress leader and All India Congress Committee (AICC) spokesperson, wrote an open letter to the Chief Minister demanding the constitution of a top-level committee to comprehensively audit afresh death reports in both private and government hospitals as per Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) protocols. Wrote Sravan: “More than 1.2 lakh people died of COVID-19 in both first and second waves. The Telangana government has reported just 3,912 deaths to hide its failures.” His view that many families will be denied compensation because of an absence of clear data looms large.

Personnel from the Health Department said that the official death numbers reflect only the deaths of patients who died at hospitals and did not have any other ailment. Patients suffering from other complications were not labelled as COVID deaths and that will make compensation claims difficult.

It is a fact that the deaths of hundreds of COVID-19 patients went unrecorded. Several also died in remote villages without testing or treatment or on the way to hospital, many without any supportive documentary evidence such as RTPCR tests reports and so on, making the task of claiming compensation difficult. Some patients even underwent COVID tests, but there are no death certificates. During the first wave, COVID protocols did not allow relatives to even take the bodies of their loved ones for burial/cremation. And many did not declare the deaths of their kin as COVID-related, fearing the associated stigma.

The Telangana government has constituted the district-level COVID-19 Death Ascertaining Committees (CDACs) which will act as grievance redressal committees for issuing the all-important certification of death. The CDACs, which will be headed by the District Collector, District Medical and Health Officer (DM&HO) and Superintendent of the District Headquarter Hospital, will administer the death certificate after due examination and verification of all facts in accordance with Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) and ICMR guidelines.

The government has stated that deaths because of poisoning, suicide, homicide, or accident will not be considered as COVID-19 deaths even if the COVID-19 was an accompanying condition. Claims are to be settled within 30-days of submission of the required documents.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor